Toshiba plans new enterprise: High capacity 3.5-inch HDDs

Wants to be a bigger player in the big drive market

For Sale sign detail

Toshiba is planning to enter the high-capacity enterprise 3.5-inch hard disk drive market.

Toshiba Storage Division Europe hosted a press event in London yesterday, following on the completion of its acquisition of Fujitsu's hard disk drive (HDD) business.

Following the acquisition Toshiba has a portfolio of HDDs that are sold into the enterprise, mobile and consumer electronics markets plus the automotive - with a dominating 80 per cent plus market share - and the industrial HDD market.

Before the acquisition Toshiba was not in the enterprise market, having deliberately taken a decision a few years ago to concentrate on small form factor drives in the mobile, consumer electronics (CE) and automotive markets. This gave it today's line-up of 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch drives.

The company also makes NAND flash chips through its Toshiba Electronics Components operation, but these are not sold by the Storage Device Division. It is a hard disk drive product-based division and has channel expertise in these products and their markets.

Because of this channel expertise, it is developing eSSD - enterprise flash solid state drives - for server-attached storage. Flash drives for notebook computers would come from the Electronics Components division.

The Fujitsu HDD acquisition gives Toshiba 10K and 15K 2.5-inch enterprise HDDs with a SAS interface. It also brings overlapping 7200 and 5400rpm, 2.5-inch mobile and CE drives to Toshiba's own products. Tosh will use the Fujitsu enterprise drives as a base to expand its enterprise drive offerings.

It is developing its eSSD products, SAS interface ones, by combining NAND chips with Fujitsu controller technology. It is also developing a 7200rpm 3.5-inch drive, with both SAS and SATA interfaces being considered. This drive would be for tier 3 nearline storage applications.

Toshiba currently has a 7200rpm 2.5-inch drive with a 395Gbit/sq in areal density and 250GB/platter capacity. Such a platter could be readily scaled up to 3.5-inches and instantly provide a 2TB capacity, via four platters of 500GB capacity at the same areal density level.

Were Toshiba to take areal density at the 7200rpm level above 400Gbit/sq in then we could be looking at a 3TB drive. Could it do this?

Currently Tosh has a 5400rpm 2.5-inch drive with a 528.5Gbit/sq in areal density and 320GB/platter capacity. It has a 5400rpm 1.8-inch drive with 516Gbit/sq in areal density and 160GB/platter capacity. If Tosh breached the 500Gbit/sq in areal density level in its coming 7200rpm, 3.5-inch drive that could enable 750GB/platter capacities and so produce a 3TB drive with four platters.

We might expect Toshiba to introduce its 3.5-inch drive next year, along with its eSSD.

The company is planning, meaning it's not in development yet, a low-speed 2.5-inch enterprise drive, spinning at 7200rpm. This would, we believe, be a capacity-focussed drive and so would use the 500Gbit/sq in areal density capability as well. This would give it today's 5400rpm drive capacity, meaning 640GB. Alternatively, Toshiba could be hoping to move to a higher areal density and achieve a 1TB, 2-platter 2.5-inch drive. WD currently has a 3-platter, 1TB 2.5-inch drive and there is speculation about a 1TB small form factor drive being prepared by Seagate.

Future recording technologies

Toshiba's Philip Walsh, director of business planning for Toshiba storage in Europe, has a slide in his presentation set showing Discrete Track Recording (DTR) technology being developed to increase areal density for 2.5-inch drives from 2010 onwards. Bit-patterned Media (BPM), with its insulating doughnut ring around the magnetised bits, will start its development in 2012, also for 2.5-inch drives.

That year, Toshiba thinks thermal-assisted recording, what we know as HAMR (Heat-assisted Magnetic Recording), will also start its development in 2012 but for 3.5-inch drives. There was a suggestion that HAMR read/write heads would be bulkier than non-HAMR heads and so would be too large to fit in 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch HDD casings.

Toshiba has a goal of becoming the number one supplier of mobile-class and enterprise small form factor disk drives, meaning 2.5-inch and 1.8-inch units, in 2012. It reckons it is currently number two. ®

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